ORVILLE “BUSTER” DARLING shucks scallops on Friday at Cundy’s Habor. Darling said he has doubts regarding shrimping this year.

ORVILLE “BUSTER” DARLING shucks scallops on Friday at Cundy’s Habor. Darling said he has doubts regarding shrimping this year.

BATH

People who earn a living from the sea are taking any opening they can find.

Given an abbreviated shrimping season and a depressed market for lobster, some who have traditionally caught shrimp in January are opting to trawl pockets of temporarily reopened scalloping waters.

Many are lobstermen, already frustrated from this year’s rock-bottom lobster prices.

Scallops aren’t exactly abundant — they retail for about $15 a pound, a price that has remained consistent for years. But the state has reopened some new beds on a temporary basis and fishermen hungry to augment their incomes are jumping at it.

“I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to go back and forth between shrimping and scalloping,” said Marine Patrol Sgt. Dan White, who covers an area from Portland to Bath. “I will tell you there are some places where there is some good scalloping this year.”

White and others with the state Department of Marine Resources say lobster harvests have been large, but fetched rock-bottom prices.

As of Jan. 3, reports to the department indi- cate more than 123 million pounds of lobsters were caught in 2012 — an increase of approximately 18 million pounds over 2011. Yet while the lobster fishery has experienced unparalleled growth in landings, the value of the catch was less than $331 million, a decrease of $3.7 million compared to 2011.

Meanwhile, the state has imposed a twoweek season on shrimping, which begins Jan. 16.

Orville “Buster” Darling of Cundy’s Harbor spent his third day of the season scalloping Thursday, and reported “fair results — nothing special.”

Darling said he has doubts regarding shrimping this year.

“With what they’ve given us for a shrimp season, and what the market looks like,” Darling said, “I’m not sure. It doesn’t look very promising. When shrimping opens I’ll be limited to two days a week, and I’ll have five days for scalloping.”

Darling, 58, finished up his lobstering season the week before Christmas. He won’t resume setting lobster traps until June 1, so he’s hoping he can make money on scallops until the end of March.

He’s not happy with the decision reached by three-member Northern Shrimp Section of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which set a catch limit for shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of Maine at 625 metric tons for the 2013 season — nearly a quarter of what it was this year. Boats will only be able to go out fishing on Mondays and Wednesdays.

The season for trawlers will begin Jan. 22, while the season for shrimp trappers will begin Feb. 5, with six landing days and an 800- pound limit.

“I think the council has killed our market,” Darling said.

White has heard similar stories, including one from a South Bristol man who also has given up on shrimping this season.

“There’s a bunch of fishermen who are discouraged with the shrimp season,” he said.

For those choosing scalloping instead, there are new options. Beds that had been closed have been reopened in South Bristol, and near Bailey Island, among others, he said.

Lt. John Cornish, a Marine Patrol manager, said he has heard different messages from different fishermen.

“Some folks are going shrimping because they feel like they have to, and others aren’t going to rig up,” Cornish said. “Fishermen are very resilient.”

Jon Hentz, shellfish warden in Georgetown, said he fears the Maine shrimping resource could reach the point where it’s not “commercially feasible.”

“What hurts our shrimp season is you can’t depend on a stable market,” Hentz said. “Buyers can’t depend on it, and shrimpers aren’t getting the price they want. It’s too flexible.”

Scalloping, meanwhile, might be a stop-gap measure.

“You can’t make a living just scalloping anymore,” Hentz said.


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